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Domestic abuse survivors and the court process 28/02/2023

It has been reported that a letter was delivered on 27 February 2023 to Dominic Raab, the current Secretary of State for Justice. The letter was signed by a group of 28 which included charities, solicitors and abuse survivors and it asked for urgent action to protect victims of domestic abuse from being cross-examined by their abusers in a courtroom setting.

The Government made a commitment to tackle this issue back in February 2017, which has only just been legislated on under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. This legislation is only applicable to new cases from July 2022 onwards, meaning that this protection will unfortunately not extend to those victims already in the system.

The letter also went on to identify the fact that far too few legal representatives have come forward to assist domestic abuse victims by undertaking cross-examination in place of the alleged perpetrator. The Government’s intention within this legislation is that correct training will be provided to such legal representatives, to ensure that enough legal representatives are available to undertake this process and also to monitor the system to ensure that it is being implemented correctly.

It has been set out that without correct monitoring there are no guarantees that the ban will be implemented and it is suggested that without checks in place, domestic abusers will be able to continue to perpetrate abuse against their victims.

In 2020, some three years after the Government commitment was made, a report was undertaken by the Ministry of Justice into this issue which identified “deep-seated and systemic issues which impede and obstruct the Family Court’s ability to respond consistently and effectively to domestic abuse”. This morning’s letter calls for the full implementation of all the recommendations made to provide the correct level of protection to victims.

It is widely felt that progress in this area has been extraordinarily slow. When considering that commitments were made six years ago, it took four years for legislation to come to fruition and even then, such legislation is not all-encompassing, does not fulfil the government’s initial intention in all areas, and does not comply with the recommendations made.

It is hoped that the letter delivered on 27 February 2023 will have the desired effect and that this issue will be tackled effectively, meaning that correct levels of protection will be afforded to all victims of domestic abuse going forward, regardless of when their case started.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 07977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.

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